Thursday, February 8, 2024

The Life and Death of 9413

I've got a couple of movies on my DVR directed by Robert Florey, a man who directed quite a few films in the first two dozen years of the sound era. His is one of those names you may have seen in the opening credits without really knowing his work, since most of his work was not in prestige films. In looking him up, I came across a title that sounded really interesting: The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra. It's now in the public domain and on Youtube, so I sat down to watch it.

Even before What Price Hollywood in 1932, Hollywood was a place people went to try to make it big, much in the same way people went east to New York to try to make it on the stage. John Jones is one such person. But he only gets considered as an extra, having the number 9413 written on his head. Also at the same casting call are two other people: a woman who gets number 13, and a man who tries out a bunch of different masks to do the sort of facial expression thing Marion Davies did in Show People. Somehow, this guy gets selected for stardom, and has a star written on his forehead.

9413 keeps trying to make it big, as he has DREAMS and chases SUCCESS (those words capitalized because signs with those words are a running theme throughout the movie, but that success eludes him. Eventually, 9413 dies and goes up to heaven. I don't think I'm giving much away considering this is a 13-minute short and there's that title.

This was made obviously early in Florey's career, and is heavily influenced by European expressionistic filmmaking. Many of the sets made me think of Metropolis. Florey directed, but the rest of the crew is worth mentioning too. Sets were made in part by Slavko Vorkapich, another name you'll probably have seen in the credits to movies of the 1930s for his montages and editing. The "Gregg" in the credits filming this is a young Gregg Toland, who would become really famous with Citizen Kane a dozen years later.

The Life and Death of 9413, a Hollywood Extra is a fascinating experimental film that's definitely worth watching. As I said, you can find it on Youtube, although I don't know that any of the prints have the music that originally went with the film.

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